Streaming’s British Invasion Falls Flat

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(Welcome to my weekly streaming ratings report, the best guide to what’s popular in streaming TV and what isn’t. I’m the Entertainment Strategy Guy, a former streaming executive who now analyzes business strategy in the entertainment industry. If you were forwarded this email, please subscribe to get these insights each week.)

A few quick things before we get into the issue…

First, according to last week’s survey, folks have big expectations for Inside Out 2 when it lands on streaming later this year, myself included. And it will be fascinating to see if Disney rushes or delays that debut on Disney+. (I’m team hold-out-for-as-long-as-possible.) 

Here’s the results of last week’s poll:

We’ll see if the wisdom of the crowd holds again this year! (Last year, an unknown title, Leave the World Behind, had the best debut but ultimately The Super Mario Bros Movie took the yearly crown.) I’d also place my chips on Inside Out 2 since it’s not just a wildly popular film, but a wildly popular kids film.

Second, the Streaming Ratings Report is coming out today, on a Tuesday, because Nielsen held the ratings (for the week of 27-May) until yesterday. And they’re going to do the same thing next week, but I’ll be on vacation at that point, so we’ll publish the Streaming Ratings Report the weekend after. Then we’re going to combine issues the week after that because there were no new US-based scripted shows two weeks ago!

On to this week’s ratings, and it’s a straight-up 1960s-style British Invasion. There are five new British scripted shows! Indeed, the one new show that takes place in NYC, Eric, still hails from England somehow. So we’ll see how well the Brits do on the small screen, along with Fallout continuing its very strong run, the second best Hulu debut series in two years, a couple of buzzy theatrical titles that missed the ratings, Formula 1’s best viewership of all time and what it doesn’t mean, Nielsen’s The Gauge, all the flops, bombs and misses for the week, and a whole lot more. 

Let’s dive right in!

(Reminder: The streaming ratings report focuses on the U.S. market and compiles data from Nielsen’s weekly top ten viewership ranks, Luminate’s Top Ten Data, Showlabs, TV Time trend data, Samba TV household viewership, company datecdotes, and Netflix hours viewed data, Google Trends, and IMDb to determine the most popular content. While most data points are current, Nielsen’s data covers the weeks of May 27th to June 2nd.)

Television – The UK Invasion on American Streaming

Making my notes each week to write the report, certain trends hop out. Like how the shows that came out the week starting 27-May all seemed to be from England. (Or the UK. Someday I’ll learn the difference. Kidding British readers!) Check it out:

  • Eric A Netflix UK thriller/drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch that takes place in New York.
  • The Famous Five: A Hulu YA fantasy series with three very long episodes.
  • We Are Lady Parts: A Peacock comedy/drama from Channel 4 in the UK
  • The Outlaws: A Prime Video UK crime comedy starring Stephen Merchant
  • Geek Girl: A Netflix YA dramedy.

The short-term explanation for this small British Invasion is relatively simple: the UK kept making TV shows while US labor unions were on strike last summer. The long-term explanation is that the streamers are finding that UK shows perform moderately well compared to other international titles and may be cheaper than US originals.

But note I used “moderately” above. I haven’t run a full-fledged data analysis on it, but I think UK shows might underperform compared to US originals. Again, examples of big hits abound from both the US and UK, but my theory—from analyzing this data week-in and week-out—is that the UK shows tend to have lower ceilings than a lot of US originals.

For example, the big winner of this week among these four shows is the aforementioned thriller Eric. Like many UK shows, it only has six episodes—so it’s a bit short compared to the ten episodes we used to see on streaming as of just four years ago—but it only had 11.2 million hours in its opening. That’s fine, but not quite a “smash hit” either.

Meanwhile, the rest of the shows—The Famous Five, We Are Lady Parts, The Outlaws, Geek Girl—missed all or most of the charts:

Worse, all of them missed TV Time, the easiest chart to make for most TV shows:

They also mostly had poor IMDb scores (in this case, I mean under 10K reviews). Geek Girl made Samba TV’s top ten, but only for one week:

This isn’t to say I don’t like the idea of acquiring smart UK TV shows for streaming. In the olden days of cable/broadcast, when you had a limited inventory of slots, you couldn’t give one of those time slots to a UK show if its ceiling was notably lower than a similar US show. Until Downton Abbey, that was basically always the case with UK series on PBS via Masterpiece Theater. With streaming, you don’t have that time slot restriction.

But we’re seeing that a UK-only strategy also isn’t a path to guaranteed success in America. Right now, the streamers are opting for that out of necessity, but they’ll need US-produced shows to come back quickly.

Quick Notes on TV

  • Among the other new releases, Netflix put out their latest true crime doc, Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult. This had a good opening for a Netflix doc, and it made all the charts I track: 11.2 million hours on Nielsen in its first week (identical to the presumably-more-expensive scripted series I mentioned above, Eric, though it came out one day earlier and thus had one extra day of viewership), third place on Samba TV and 11.9 million hours on Luminate.
  • I received a great comment (connect me on Linked-In if you want!) from Kelly Kahl, former President at CBS Entertainment, that I should have focused more on the budget for Tires in my analysis last week. And he’s right: the budget was likely very low for this one. As a reminder, Tires is the workplace sitcom that streamed six 22 minute episodes last week. It’s a good reminder that budget drives all these decisions; arguably the calculus for every show is “viewership/ratings versus cost”. That said, it missed the charts in its second week. Even for a show with a short run time, low budget, and not many episodes, that’s not great.

  • In contrast to Tires, Jurassic World: Chaos Theory is the very rare kids series that made the charts for a second week at 7.4 million hours.

  • Bridgerton continues its downward slide week-over-week, which is expected. Here’s how it compares to previous seasons, with the giant caveat that its second batch of episodes will boost things quite a bit in a few weeks.

  • We’ve seen a slight uptick for Evil to 13.8 million hours after it had new episodes come out on Paramount+. As a reminder, it also has its first two seasons on Netflix, a split-release strategy I love. Related, Star Trek: Discovery showed back up with 4.5 million hours in its ninth and final week. Due to its small size, Paramount+ TV series usually straddle the line between the 8th, 9th and 10th place spots on the Originals charts, or just off the charts. Here’s how all Paramount+ shows stack up on streaming:

  • Speaking of streamer-specific success stories—I’ve written before about “hits for them”—Under The Bridge is Hulu’s biggest season one success story since Shogun. It made the charts again in its seventh and final week of release, a big accomplishment for a Hulu original.

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The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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